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June 17: Flash Fiction Challenge

June 17Duck, duck, goose.

It’s a children’s game I remember from grade school. Mrs. Couch would turn off the overhead lights and each student would rest her head on the desk. The first selected student would wander through the rows chanting, “Duck…” tapping one student’s head, then “Duck…” and tapping another. We’d all tense and wait for “Goose!” If tapped, that student would chase the other back to his desk and begin the game anew.

I’m sure there are many versions of this game. In Minnesota, “duck, duck, goose” are fighting words. Mild-mannered people transform almost beast-like at the mention of winter existing outside of their state or those three words. It’s “duck, duck, gray duck” they’ll correct.

I’m reminded of this game because of the baby mergansers on the sunning log. Two weeks and Elmira Pond is shaggy with tall grass and the fluffy babies that once rode on their parents’ backs are now gangly youths. They sit on a log in a new version of the game: duck, duck, turtle, duck.

Having just returned from a household with five lively children, Kate’s grandchildren, I’ve learned all kinds of new games. Building blocks. Horses. Bubbles. Trike racing on sidewalks. Sausage. I’ve learned new songs, too, like:

Charley Barley, buck and rye,

What’s the way the Frenchmen fly?

Some fly east, some fly west,

Some fly over the cuckoo’s nest!

Traditional nursery rhymes are rich in culture and history. Four of these five children can recite dozens of them (we’ll give the fifth child a break because she’s only a month old). It brings to mind ones I knew along with childhood games, and I have a certain awe for their capacity to be passed down through the generations despite technology and screens.

There is yet life for the old stories, the old games in the new era.

Star light, star bright,

Very first star I see tonight,

I wish you may, I wish you might,

Give me the wish I wish tonight.

I’m home again, pondering the night sky. The Hub calls me to the porch to see Venus and Jupiter descending in the western horizon. I know they are planets, but they shine like the brightest stars and Venus qualifies as first. We stare up with childlike enchantment.

No wonder Peter Pan never wanted to grow up. We grow serious and forget to play, forget to wish, forget to dream. I needed two weeks with children who call me Charley Barley and giggle when I say, “See you later alligator!”

This week I invite you to play! Consider the flash fiction challenges at Carrot Ranch to be a writer’s sandbox; a place to play with 99 words like building blocks. Like musicians who jam, we join together with others and play our words. And, sometimes magic happens with what we create.

My gratitude to each of you who joins in. I get to play in world that is often too serious. My wish tonight is that you find the child within and race your fingers across the keyboard like in a good game of duck, duck, goose…or duck, duck, gray duck…or duck, duck, turtle, duck.

June 17, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves a children’s game or rhyme. You can create something new or go with something traditional. You can write with a twist, humor, menace or glee. Hop, skip or jump wherever the prompt leads you.

Respond by June 23, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


A Real Keeper by Charli Barli Mills

Gus drew a circle in the dirt, then a starting line in the middle. The boys set down their clays. The new girl, Dina, added two green porcelains. Gus drew a deep breath. A girl with marbles? He wiped his palms and knelt with his blue slag shooter. Before the teacher pulled the bell rope, Dina added the boys’ marbles to her bag.

Gus walked beside her. “Can I see your shooter?”


Swirls of amber, a real keeper. So he’d think years later as they exchanged vows, and he smiled into her eyes as pretty as her taw.


Take Time to Play

liebster2Today’s tip for writers is: take time to play.

We take time to write, improve our craft, publish and promote our words. We understand that there’s this word “social” in social media, but we get so serious about promoting that we for get to play. We forget to be social.

Within a span of two weeks, I’ve had two fellow bloggers reach out to me at Carrot Ranch with a Liebster Award. In essence, I was called up to play. Back in December I had a fellow writer surprise me with a Sisterhood Blogger Award. While I was thrilled and delighted, I failed to play.

And that’s not good for the writing soul. We need to take time away from our busy-bee business and interact with people as people (more than writers or readers, buyers or sellers). As one blogger told me, “It’s always a great feeling when we realize we’re not talking to thin air.” Yes, it’s a great feeling to be asked to play hopscotch on the playground instead of watching from the shadows.

Publicly, I have four writers to thank. Susan Zutautas of Everything Susan who calls me out daily to play while keeping her own writing energized and prolific. Thank you for the Sisterhood Award despite my fumbling the play. Lorraine Marie Reguly of Poetry Perfected for taking time to research and post what the Liebster Award is all about. Maggie (Cafe Maggieato) of Just Get it Written for honoring me with the first Liebster Award. Her blog is an inspiration to writers. Norah Colvin of Norah Colvin for honoring me with the second Liebster Award. Her blog is full of intelligence and educational advocacy. Thank you!

Yes, Writers, I hear the call to play and will respond with a post for each set of Liebster questions. To the rest of you out there, tapping away at keys, remember to pause and play. It just might refresh all your serious to-dos and writing!

Liebster Award — Just Get it Written Response

Liebster Award — Paying it Forward Response

Liebster Award: Just Get it Written

liebster2Blogger Cafe Maggieato of Just Get it Written has honored me with a Liebster Award. It’s an opportunity to play with other bloggers, to know that I’m not writing into thin air. As part of the acceptance, she has posed the following questions to her nominees, which I have answered:

  1. Which fictional character do you most identify with and why? Laura Ingalls because I grew up in an old mining town surrounded by abandoned cabins, forgotten cemeteries and old-timers who told me about their childhoods on the “frontier.” So somehow, I felt connected to Laura Ingalls, as if her knowledge of old stuff and pioneer ways explained what was in my environment. There was an old Conestoga wagon on a ranch near my childhood house that I’d clamber up onto the seat–it was so tall–and I’d pretend that I was riding with Pa Ingalls to the next prairie farm or town.
  2. In another life, what would you be doing, if not writing? I’d be an archeologist! I love digging into dirt and the stories it can tell. I have an ability to find old stuff anywhere on the ground.
  3. Would you rather have a slow painful death by terminal disease or a quick death by accident? There’s a gift in each–slow and painful allows for introspection and more time with loved ones and quick is, well, quick! But either way, I want to live a worthy life breathing the essence of daily beauty.
  4. Your books are a big hit. Would you rather see it as a: (pick one only) movie, TV series, computer game, or a Broadway show? Why? Woohoo! I’d go for a movie because I’m into narrative and I think a movie would be the best medium for telling the book’s story.
  5. Admit it, you already have a dream cast in mind. Who are they? Yes, I do. Adam Beach will play Michael Robineaux and Evangeline Lilly will play Dr. Danni Gordon (who’s an archeologist). Purebred German Short-haired Pointers will have to be “discovered” for their roles.
  6. Any part(s) in your manuscript(s) you’ve been embarrassed to let your family/friends read? This is why writing romance novels is my “plan B” as a writer! Not so much from embarrassing scenes but from my husband’s sure-to-be-embarrassing reactions to me writing hot scenes. He’d be calling up army buddies…no we’re not going there.
  7. Was there ever a book you just couldn’t finish? Why not? “Moby Dick.” It was required summer reading for Honors English my freshman year of high school and I just couldn’t finish the darn book. Yet, I was able to discuss it in class…thus revealing a talent I have for skimming literature. That’s why a book has to grab me to really read it.
  8. What is the one thing you would never, ever let your characters do? I’d not let my characters be unflawed. I think our flaws, as well as our strengths, are what make us believable and interesting. What I want my characters to do is to overcome their situations despite their flaws not because they are perfect.
  9. What do you think is the most underrated book/movie? “Smoke Signals” got good reviews but is not that well known. Less known is the book it is based on–“The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.” I blame Sherman Alexie for my momentary bouts of wanting to be a poet, then I come back to myself and remember that I’m a story-teller.  But I want to tell stories like Mr. Alexie! Lyrical, sharp, funny, tragic, true.
  10. Do you prefer happy endings or tragic ones? Why? I like books or movies that move me or convict me or challenge my thinking, but I hate tragic ending that leave me feeling hopeless or helpless. It’s not that I want the happy-ending, per say, but I want a sense of conclusion, of growth, of hope. There can be beauty in tragedy if the writer is adept.

The purpose of the Liebster award is to help discover new blogs. In keeping the engagement dynamic, I’d like to offer this nomination to the following bloggers who have become my core support group online:

Ruthi Reads Books for Kids has a strong mission to increase literacy one children’s book review at a time. It’s a blog that engages both readers and writers in the purpose of sharing children’s book. Anyone can recommend a book for Ruthi to review and you can contact her if you are an author of a children’s book. Reviewers can join her in her mission as the Books for Kids Contributor on Squidoo. If you are a writer, it’s a great way to link up with other writers and reviewers.

Review This! is a new blog that combines the blogging efforts of 12 Squidoo Contributors. This blog serves as an example of writers working together to share their contributions of knowledge in a variety of areas from romance to food to recycling. Each writer is an expert in their niche and I always learn something new or useful from this blog.

Doing’ Time on My Behind is a great name for a writer’s blog! As writers we have to put in the time writing, and blogger Dawn understands that. She recently held a book give-away on her blog in support of her Mid-Atlantic State Travel Contributions which I greatly enjoy reading to learn about this region. We share a passion for digging in the dirt, too.

Weeds and Seeds is a great blog full of useful information on plants and herbs not readily found on other gardening sites. As I plan for my garden (and filling some of those wild spaces) the archives of this blog will be useful.

Fun Food Network has a line up of tabs that includes cupcakes, candy & snacks, and bread & breakfast. That’s my idea of fun food! Plus the posts are easy to follow with tutorials involved. It’s a beautiful blog for food.

If you have been nominated you can choose to accept to play along, or not. No pressure. It’s a bit of fun, an opportunity to connect and can help spread knowledge of your blog. If I nominated you, it is because I do read your blog! If you accept, here are The Liebster Award Rules adapted from Wording Well:

  1. Each nominee should link back to the person who nominated them.
  2. Answer the 10 questions which are given to you by the nominator.
  3. Nominate 5-11 other bloggers for this award who have less than 1,000 followers (this number is flexible).
  4. Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer.
  5. Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them.

Questions for my Liebster Award Nominees:

  1. Congratulations! You just won a Liebster Award. What award do you dream about winning?
  2. What compelled you to start a blog?
  3. What has been your most memorable blogging experience?
  4. What else do you write?
  5. If you could watch the sunrise with anyone, who would that be and why?
  6. What is your favorite genre to read?
  7. What is your favorite writing snack?
  8. What is your strongest writing strength?
  9. How do you keep focused on your blogging?
  10. Who is your favorite book character and why?

Thanks for taking time to play!